MASTER CLASS: Using a BOSU ball can change up your squat

CrossFit trainer Nick Stewart demonstrates the BOSU Squat Touch at Little Rock Racquet Club. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Celia Storey)
CrossFit trainer Nick Stewart demonstrates the BOSU Squat Touch at Little Rock Racquet Club. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Celia Storey)

The squat exercise is nothing new. It has been around for a 100 years and will probably be around for hundreds more. However, there are many variations of the squat that can be tried to drive different outcomes for exercisers.

This week, I'll talk about a few key tactics for those looking to mix it up. Plus, I will introduce a cool squat variation that truly challenges the entire body in terms of strength, balance and coordination.

If you ask 10 people how to perform a squat, it's likely that 10 different responses will come back. Some people are passionate about having a "flat back" or "shoulders back," while others are more focused on the lower body movement pattern.

I won't spend this week's column harping on squat technique. Instead, I want to share a few ways to change up the typical squat.

First, think about foot position. Widen the stance, narrow the stance or split the stance (forward to back) from time to time. These different positions, while not technically correct, can really make a difference in the target muscles that are affected.

Second, experiment with foundations and surfaces. Squatting on sand is a completely different experience from squatting on a balance board. Each will challenge different elements of the lower body and can produce a unique stimulation of muscular activity.

The repetition range and resistance level are also great levers to pull with the squat. Five sets of 25 with very light weight will give a completely different result than three sets of five at 90% of maximal capacity. The former produces greater muscular endurance while the latter is certainly targeting overall muscle power and strength.

I suppose the point is to think differently. Challenge existing thinking to create new movement patterns and exciting workouts. This week's exercise is, of course, a squat variation using one of my favorite pieces of fitness equipment — the BOSU ball.

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1. Position a BOSU ball with the flat side up. Stand on the BOSU with your feet shoulder-width apart.

2. Maintaining good posture, bend the hips and knees to perform a very strict squat with the back upright.

3. Continue to lower your hips toward the floor until you can actually touch the sides of the BOSU with your fingertips.

4. Touch the sides, then press back up.

5. Immediately go into your next repetition and touch the sides again. Continue for 10 repetitions very slowly, and do two sets.

This exercise is really about maintaining balance, which coincidentally requires a very strict squat posture. So, the poorer the posture is — the more difficult it will be to balance. In that way, the BOSU Squat Touch is a bit of a sounding board for checking oneself on proper squat form. It's also a cool challenge and one that is appropriate for many skill levels. Enjoy!

Director of business development and population health solutions for Quest Diagnostics, Matt Parrott began this column Jan. 6, 2003, at Little Rock. He has a doctorate in education (sport studies), a master's in kinesiology and is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine.

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